Early Childhood Education

Play Based Learning

Effective Early Childhood Programs have a combination of play-based, playful and explicit teaching and learning opportunities planned carefully throughout the day.  Lindon and Rouse summarised a research project conducted by Siraj-Blatchford et al (2004) and found that:

  • The most effective early years settings – in terms of children’s learning – had a balance of about two-thirds child-initiated experiences to one-third adult-led experiences.
  • The best programs had a pattern in which educators came alongside and supported the children’s learning and development in about half of those child-initiated experiences.
  • What is of most importance is not the amount of adult-led and child-initiated learning that occurs, but the way educators behave when they are interacting and engaging with young children. Adult actions and communicative interaction make the difference for children within child and adult-initiated experiences.

At Aspiri Primary School we have a predominately play-based approach to teaching and learning in the early years.  Jennie Lindon and Liz Rouse (2013) describe play-based learning as experiences and opportunities where children select what and how they would like to do things in carefully designed learning spaces that aim to build on children’s interests and experiences, as well as concepts learnt through explicit teaching at other times throughout the day. They use the resources provided to direct their own learning whilst being given time to explore, practise and improve their skills. 

During play-based learning time the teacher and education assistant skilfully guide and ‘nudge’ the students to extend their thinking and skills, whilst acknowledging and supporting students’ learning through teachable moments related to the curriculum. Our job as early childhood educators is to provide children with rich resources, environments that foster their interests and plenty of time to explore and repeat play experiences.

Child-Initiated Learning (Agency Time)

At Aspiri Primary School we provide a balance of child-initiated and adult-led learning in our Kindergarten and Pre Primary classrooms.   

Child-initiated learning is when children choose what activity they would like to be in and for how long they engage with the activities. The educator facilitates the experience when appropriate.  At Aspiri Primary School we call the time spent engaging in child-initiated learning ‘Agency Time’.  Having agency means “being able to make choices and decisions to influence events and to have an impact on one’s world.” (Early Years Learning Framework,p. 45).

As children develop a sense of agency they realise that they have the ability to make their own decisions and to control their own lives.  A sense of agency is an important part of developing a strong sense of identity, as defined by the Early Years Learning Framework – belonging, being and becoming.

During Agency the educators use ‘traffic light’ folders to determine teachable moments relevant to the curriculum and the development of each individual child.

Adult Led-Learning

Jennie Lindon and Liz Rouse (2013) explained that in adult-led learning, the purpose of the learning is intentionally chosen to assist children to discuss and learn about a particular topic or a curriculum area. During this time, the teacher leads the learning to build and reinforce what students know and to further extend them.

The teacher:

  • Uses assessment and observation to identify the needs of the children
  • Plans using a curriculum framework
  • Decides on outcomes and teaching strategies
  • Implements strategies provides opportunities for a gradual release
  • Reflects (why is this experience important? What can I do to extend them further?)

Adult-led learning: The teacher has carefully selected specific aspect of learning however the educator leads the learning and extend them.

Further Reading

Early Years Learning Framework
National Quality Standards
On-Entry Assessment Program
Kindergarten Curriculum Guidelines
Pre-Primary Curriculum
Enrolling your Child in Kindergarten and Pre-Primary
Supporting your Child at Home

Other Important Information about Early Childhood at Aspiri Primary School

Education Assistants have a very important role in Kindergarten and Pre Primary at Aspiri Primary School.  They prioritise activities that contribute to and increase student outcomes.   This means that they play an active role in working shoulder to shoulder with the teacher during all teaching and learning experiences; including mat time, child-initiated and adult-led learning.  Together with the teacher, they also work towards building independence, responsibility and resilience.  This means that they encourage students to take responsibility for their own belongings and be actively involved in the preparation, storage and cleaning of school equipment.

The Department of Education WA has mandated that primary schools provide 15 hours of a quality education program for students in WA who are 4 years old.  This means that children will not have a nap time during their days at Kindergarten. 

Aspiri Primary School has a Crunch and Sip Program instead of shared fruit time.  The Crunch and Sip Program encourages students to stop mid-morning to eat fruit and drink water.